Sunday, February 14, 2016

Daredevil's death stuns community

Ryan Dunn, a star of MTV's Jackass franchise, enjoyed defying death for the camera; however, friends said the 34-year-old West Chester transplant was nothing like his movie persona. He did like fast cars, they said, and on Monday he lost his life in one.

Daredevil's death stuns community

The fiery wreck burned so intensely that tall trees were blackened from roots to top.
The fiery wreck burned so intensely that tall trees were blackened from roots to top.

Ryan Dunn, a star of MTV's Jackass franchise, was a familiar face to patrons of West Chester watering holes. And although the 34-year-old West Chester transplant enjoyed defying death for the camera, he was described as the antithesis of his daredevil  persona when the film wasn't rolling. 

Sean Maloney, 24, of West Chester, said he would see Dunn on the street or in bars, especially when the Phillies were playing. "He was such a big Phillies fan," Maloney said, adding that Dunn always had time for his fans, often buying them drinks or signing autographs. "He was a regular guy," not someone who put on Hollywood airs, despite his success on shows like "Viva la Bam" and "Homewrecker."

Dunn's friends said he did like fast cars, but they called him a skilled driver, someone with racing experience who was unlikely to make a mistake behind the wheel. That belief made Dunn's death in a fiery crash on Monday much harder to bear, friends said.

 Police said Dunn was traveling at least 130 mph in his Porsche 911 GT3 at 2:38 a.m. when he veered off the Route 322 bypass, crashing through a guardrail, toppling trees and sheering off branches as the car broke apart and became engulfed in flames.

Dunn and his passenger, Zac Hartwell, 30, of West Chester, died of thermal and blunt trauma, the coroner said. Friends, many of whom congregated at The Note, a West Chester nightspot, have been visibly distraught. Fans have flooded the crash site, prompting police to set up a traffic-calming presence to ensure everyone's safety.

The Note is co-owned by Brandon "Bam" Margera, described by many as Dunn's best friend. "Those two were like Rowan & Martin," said Margera's mother, April, likening  the pair to the creators of Laugh-In, a popular late-'60s TV show. "We're all reeling."

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About this blog
Aubrey Whelan covers Chester County for the Inquirer. A native of a Philadelphia suburb so small it doesn't have a zip code, she grew up reading the Inquirer and was thrilled to take a job there in fall 2012. Previously, she covered crime, courts and D.C.'s Occupy movement for the Washington Examiner. Aubrey graduated from Penn State in 2011, where she worked for the award-winning campus newspaper and majored in journalism and French. Contact her at 215-495-5855 or You can also follow her on Twitter at

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